About the Unit
The third Tuesday of each month
9:30 to noon
September through May
Location: the First Presbyterian Church of Birmingham, 1669 W Maple Rd, Birmingham. The May meeting is at the Village Club in Bloomfield Hills.
Lesson and Highlights
February 16, 2021
Presenters Dianne Bostic Robinson and Joan C. Price, PRP engaged the Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit in a discussion about the order of business. As usual, there was more to learn about this meeting basic.
An agenda (program, order of business) is the plan for a meeting that shows the order of activities from the Call to Order to Adjournment. It may be an annotated list with names beside items or it may be a rough outline without notes. People who preside at meetings sometimes do scripted agendas that include everything they will say as well as what others will be presenting.
It’s a good practice for every participant to have a written agenda (not the scripted one) so everybody knows in what order items will appear. If a presider inadvertently skips an item, other participants can draw it to the presider’s attention. It’s helpful for participants who are going to make motions to see the entire meeting plan to know when the best time will be to introduce a new topic.
Organizations sometimes have a standard order of business that seldom varies, so members can get by without a fresh agenda at each meeting. But, the person presiding must prepare an agenda (if only in their head) before the meeting. For many presiding officers, writing the agenda is crucial in preparation.
It depends on the complexity of the entire program. For example, it’s essential for multi-day meetings like conventions to establish the length of individual meetings. A convention closing time is inflexible either because a meeting room is unavailabile (at any cost) or because participants must leave to return home.
Times on an agenda can be guidelines or times may be set when adopting the agenda. Setting times as guidelines offers the most flexibility. But if there is specific business that must happen at an already established time, you cannot be flexible.
In most volunteer groups it isn’t necessary to adopt an agenda unless the order of business itself is be controversial. When an agenda is adopted at the beginning of a meeting it can be changed only by suspending the rules or amending the agenda by a two-thirds vote. One very helpful practice in lieu of adopting the agenda is to review it and invite participants to add any additional items. In multi-day meetings adopting an agenda (or program) is a necessary step in opening a meeting.
Unless you are part of an organization that has its order of business in the bylaws so it can’t be changed easily you can create your own particular agenda.
Some groups have discovered that if there’s a BIG thing to discuss and you expect/want a lot of debate, doing that item early in a meeting can be helpful. People are alert, not yet watching the clock; they may be in good humor after a congenial meal; the presiding officer is on her/his toes; the topic will get its due consideration.
On the other hand, putting an important item first may delay ordinary business to a late hour so that the hall empties, leaving too few people present to continue. And sometimes, you don’t want to give a lot of time and energy to a topic. An early-in-the-meeting item can get bogged down with minutiae.
The agenda is a tool for planning and carrying out a successful meeting. It needs to follow a reasonable order but you can alter it for your purposes. For an excellent discussion of the order of business, see Section 41 in Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised, the 12th edition. Or, for a quick look at meeting order and the right words for the presider to say, see Appendix C in Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised in Brief. Both are available from parliamentarians.org.
The Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit (LSPU) welcomes guests to its monthly meetings that take place via Zoom on the third Tuesday at 9:30 a.m. from September to May. Contact Dot Martin at 586-482-7150 for a personal Zoom invitation. The March lesson will be “Handling Motions.”
Dilatory and Improper Motions
Is an inappropriate motion introduced in a meeting “naughty”? Is the handling of the motion by the presiding officer “nice”? Should it be? Does its disposition require clairvoyance by the presiding officer?
Those were some of the concepts explored by LSPU members during the virtual lesson presented on November 17, 2020 by Barbara Bonsignore, PRP, and Shelagh VanderVeen.
A motion is deemed dilatory if it seeks to obstruct or thwart the will of the assembly. In addition, any main or other motion that is frivolous or absurd or that contains no rational reason for being, is considered dilatory and cannot be introduced, according to RONR 12th edition 39:1-7.
For example, it is dilatory:
What recourse does a presiding officer have if a member attempts to introduce a dilatory motion?
1. The presiding officer can either not recognize the member, according to RONR 12th edition 39:4; or
2. Rule that such a motion is not in order, being careful to emphasize it is the motion that is out of order, not the member.
What are Improper Motions?
These examples of improper motions provided an introduction to the extensive implications of their use and misuse that can be found throughout RONR 12th edition.
The Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit (LSPU) is meeting virtually the third Tuesday morning of the month at 9:30 a.m. Guests are welcome to all our meetings, where you are encouraged to participate
in a lesson, and meet other parliamentarians. Since we are meeting virtually please send us a request so we can welcome you to our meeting room.
If you want to attend a meeting, or if you want to learn more about Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised and how you can have better meetings, contact us. Our next meeting will be December 15, 2020. The meeting will be on the topic “Previous Question.”
The first Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit meeting of the year began with an educational lesson on the basics:
"How Decisions are Made"
Leaders Joan Heinicke and Gretchen Denton outlined the process of making main motions, the way that all business comes before an assembly. In a meeting one does not begin just talking about an idea, but one begins by making a motion and then the talking (debate) takes place.
There is special language to use that is: “I move that…” or “I move to…” After a second by another member the person chairing the meeting states the motion and discussion begins in an orderly way. It would work like this: a member of the assembly obtains the floor by rising and when recognized states the motion such as “I move that we sponsor a student rally for climate change on September 20.”
After thorough debate on the merits of the idea, the Chair puts the question and members vote in favor by saying “aye” or opposed by saying “no.” Along the way there can be amendments made to the main motion; it may be referred to a special committee: it may be postponed until the next meeting, but in the end the group has made a decision and then proceeds to implement the motion.
A couple of questions came up in this lesson:
The information for this lesson came from Robert’s Rules of Order in Brief. I highly recommend it as a way to learn basic parliamentary procedure AND it’s a way to learn so you can be a member of the National Association of Parliamentarians (NAP) at www.parliamentarians.org. While at that website, go to the online store where you can get your own In Brief.
Our next meeting will be October 15, 2019, the first Tuesday of the month at the First Presbyterian Church, 1669 West Maple, Birmingham. Guests are always welcome to our program and meeting that is over by noon. The next lesson is Writing Resolutions and Platforms.
Program Highlights from 2015-2016
May 16, 2015 - Dissolution of a Society
It can happen. A club that was going strong and saving the world fifteen years ago can hardly get a quorum for meetings. An issue was so very important is being managed in a new way. Planting flowers in the park is now being done by the city.
When an organization is no longer important or it can no longer attract members, money or leadership it may be time to make a decision about the organization’s future. While there may be various options, sometimes it’s time to dissolve the society.
If the society is not incorporated and has no assets, it’s relatively easy to accomplish dissolution. The society gives notice to its members just as if they were going to amend the bylaws and then takes a vote at a meeting called especially for that purpose or at a regular meeting. Some organizations have provisions in the bylaws for dissolution; in that case you would follow those and distribute the assets as outlined.
If the society is incorporated it’s a little more complicated because you then need to fill out state forms where you are incorporated. A 501c(3) organization must be sure to assign its assets to another 501c(3) organization. Obviously all bills must be paid and previous commitments need to be fulfilled.
Again, you follow the bylaw provisions for amending bylaws or, if there is a clause for dissolution it needs to be followed. Especially with an organization that is incorporated it is good to ask an attorney how to proceed to dissolve. Assets, including endowment funds, must be properly disposed of in accordance with bylaws and state law.
During its last two years the Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit (LSPU) created a fake unincorporated society called The Garden Gnome Society. Alas, it’s served its purpose as a learning tool. With a mixture of sadness and joy, the members dissolved The Garden Gnome Society by a two-thirds vote of members present and voting at the May 17, 2016 annual meeting, grateful for the pleasure of enjoying those strange little characters every month.
Beginning in September LSPU will continue its monthly meetings the third Tuesday, 9:30 a.m. at First Presbyterian Church, 1669 West Maple, Birmingham, Michigan. In the coming year our lesson topics will all be By the Book—Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised (RONR) Of Course! The September 20 topic will be the Order of Business. Guests are always welcome
March 2016 Meeting Highlights: LSPU Meeting
What’s a privileged motion?
At its recent meeting, members of the Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit, thoughtfully considered the nature of all privileged motions and the specific characteristics that affect a meeting’s flow.
What is a privileged motion? It is a special kind of motion that deals with privileges of the assembly and privileges of individuals in a meeting, special matters of immediate importance. Because they are of immediate importance, none of the privileged motions offer an opportunity for debate.
There are five privileged motions and while they do not directly relate to the pending motion of the floor, they do have a ranked order with their order as follows:
Call for the Orders of the Day Raise a Question of Privilege
Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn.
With their ranked order it would not be in order to call for the orders of the day when the motion to recess is pending. But, it would be in order to move to recess while the lower ranking call for the orders of the day is pending.
Each has a particular description related to the matter of privilege.
Call for the Orders of the Day makes the assembly conform to the agenda or order of business and is stated, “I call for the orders of the day.” The presiding officer then goes immediately to what is supposed to be on the agenda at this time unless she/he senses that the assembly wants to complete the present business. Then, he/she takes a vote to set aside the orders of the day. It takes a 2/3 vote to set aside the orders of the day.
Raise a Question of Privilege permits a member to make a request related to the rights and privileges of the assembly or an individual. For example, a member may raise a question of privilege if the member cannot hear the speaker by saying, “I rise to a question of personal privilege; I cannot hear the speaker.”
Recess allows the assembly to take a short intermission and, upon returning, resume the business at hand. While it’s not debatable, the motion to recess is amendable related to the length of time of the recess. “I move to take a (set the amount of time) recess.” The motion requires as second and a majority adopts.
Adjourn is a motion that ends the meeting immediately while business is still pending. “I move to adjourn.” is the statement. It requires a second, a majority vote to approve, and, like all privileged motions, is not debatable.
Fix the Time to Which to Adjourn is seldom encountered but it can be very useful when it becomes apparent that the assembly cannot complete business that must be accomplished at a specific meeting. The motion sets a later time to continue the current meeting before the next regular meeting. Here is how it is stated, “I fix the time to which to adjourn to 7 PM tomorrow at our present location.” If the undebatable motion is adopted the meeting will continue at 7 PM
tomorrow at the same location. This motion has nothing to do with setting the time that the present meeting will end; it relates only to continuing the meeting at a later time and place.
Presenters Vesta DeRiso and Eleanor Siewert followed these descriptors with some scripted examples of how and when the privileged motions might be used. Nearly everyone recalled a time when such privileged motions were used and many began to consider situations where using a privileged motion would have improved the meeting’s comfort or flow. This lesson surely offered all the chance to look for such opportunities in the future and to have the skill to use privileged motions.
The next Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit meeting will be April 19, 2016 at the First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, MI located at 1669 West Maple Road. As usual the meeting will begin promptly at 9:30 with the education lesson followed by the unit’s business meeting concluding by noon.
Guests and visitors are always welcome to discover how much fun it can be to study and learn together in a congenial, accepting atmosphere.
40 Years and Counting...
This year the Louise Saks Parliamentary Unit (LSPU) celebrates its 40th anniversary as an organization offering leadership and education in parliamentary procedure. In 1975 we began serving the community, teaching how to have effective meetings where work is accomplished and all can participate following the guidance of Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised.
In its early years LSPU was the Oakland County Parliamentary Unit, but upon the death of its founder Louise Saks, a Professional Registered Parliamentarian, who brought people together to study and then practice parliamentary procedure in various organizations, the Unit was renamed to honor Ms. Saks’ legacy. Now, members come from all around southeast Michigan, meeting at the First Presbyterian Church in Birmingham.
LSPU is one of six parliamentary units in Michigan, all of them dedicated to educating members and the communities they serve in using Robert’s Rules of Order Newly Revised to accomplish organizations’ purposes.
March 2016 Meeting Highlights: LSPU Meeting
Annual Workshop - April 16, 2016
Save the date for the annual LSPU parliamentary workshop! This workshop comes with a guarantee; you will learn something new. Forty years and the still going strong...
Here is what happened at the October 2015 Meeting...
When an assembly gets bogged down in the details of a proposed motion or when it appears that more information is needed so people can make an informed decision, it’s a good time to Refer or Commit the motion to a committee. The October 20 lesson presented by Deb Davis and Terrien Bell showed members of the Louise Saks Unit how to do that correctly. As usual, the imaginary Garden Gnome Society served as the organization that had to make a decision on a proposed motion “to have a gnome mascot.”
The question of having a mascot was referred to a special committee after considerable discussion about the type of mascot needed or if the society needed a mascot at all.
“After all,” one member argued, “ a garden gnome image exists in our hearts and there is no need to select one particular gnome, male or female, to represent the society.”
Since there were widely-divergent views and numerous options, the entire motion was referred to a committee who will report in November with their recommendation.